Friday 20 October 2017

Adam Jones expecting huge test from the Western Force

British and Irish Lions' Adam Jones during a training session at the Aberdeen Sports Ground, Hong Kong. David Davies/PA Wire.
British and Irish Lions' Adam Jones during a training session at the Aberdeen Sports Ground, Hong Kong. David Davies/PA Wire.

Andrew Baldock

The British and Irish Lions will touch down on Australian soil tomorrow ready for the challenges that await them in "a massive sports country".

After putting hot and humid business of an appointment with the Barbarians behind them, they kick off nine games Down Under against Western Force in Perth on Wednesday.

Their target is a Test series victory over the Wallabies, which the Lions last achieved in 1989. They have not enjoyed a series triumph against any opponent for 16 years.

"The Australian sides will be more organised and more structured, it is a massive sports country," Lions and Wales prop Adam Jones said.

"I expect Western Force to be strong. It's a massive thing to play the Lions, a huge deal for them.

"They won't shy away from the challenge, which is what you would expect."

While the Barbarians game took its toll in terms of unrelenting stamina-sapping conditions, the Lions reported no fresh injury concerns as they packed their bags for an eight-hour flight.

Their 59-8 success, scoring eight tries, was in stark contrast to the South Africa tour opener of four years ago when the Lions struggled against a scratch Royal XV in Rustenburg before prevailing 37-25.

"Four years ago, we were disappointing in the first game, but we played well (against the Barbarians). We knew what we had to do to wear them down," Jones added.

"You could see them beginning to struggle around the fringes, and we knew we could pull away. When we scored a couple of tries in the second-half, that happened.

"We messed up a few calls in the lineout, but we are still getting used to them. It was a good game, if a bit warm!

"I think they struggled more than us, but it was a good hit-out. A lot of us haven't played for a good few weeks. For Richie Gray to get through 80 minutes having not played since the Six Nations spoke volumes."

The game saw two water breaks take place in each half, but a temperature of around 30 degrees and stifling humidity made life virtually intolerable for both teams.

Asked if the Hong Kong conditions were the toughest he has experienced, Jones said: "Comfortably. It was like there was no air.

"I felt quite good up until about seven minutes into the second-half, and then we had two scrums and it was tough after that.

"It's difficult to explain. It felt like high altitude because it was so hard to get your breath.

"Justin Tipuric (Lions flanker) is one of the fittest players I know, so if he found it hard then you know it was."

Lions head coach Warren Gatland will unveil his team to face Western Force tomorrow, with wholesale changes expected and first tour starts anticipated for the likes of Brian O'Driscoll, Manu Tuilagi, Leigh Halfpenny, Tom Croft and Jamie Heaslip.

Australia's preliminary squad for the Lions series assembled in Sydney today, but coach Robbie Deans has been forced into making three changes.

Melbourne Rebels half-back Pat Phipps, New South Wales Waratahs lock Kane Douglas and Western Force back-row forward Ben McCalman have been summoned instead of injured trio Digby Ioane, Sitaleki Timani and Scott Higginbotham.

Timani and Higginbotham have dropped out of the preliminary squad after injuries suffered during this weekend's round of Super Rugby.

Their prospects of participation in the Test series from June 22 to July 6 will be determined after the pair have undergone scans for thumb and shoulder complaints respectively.

Timani sustained a suspected broken thumb during the Waratahs' game against the Crusaders on Friday, while Higginbotham dislocated his shoulder as the Force went down to Queensland Reds.

Wing Ioane, meanwhile, underwent surgery last week for a knee ligament problem.

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